Zend CTO Andi Gutmans: Pumping Up PHP
Zend CTO Andi Gutmans likes to tout the benefits of PHP and Web 2.0 development for business. In fact, he calls Zend "the PHP company." PHP, which stands for "Hypertext Preprocessor Platform," is becoming the language of choice for companies embracing service-oriented architectures, creating and mixing Web services into a whole new generation of sophisticated commercial applications.
"PHP is the most popular Web engine out there. Its ease of use makes it like Visual Basic for the Web. Plus, it has an ecosystem around it," Gutmans told LinuxInsider. He is pushing for the continued growth of PHP -- much like an explorer searching for the Holy Grail.
Gutmans' company is also investing in a number of open source projects like Framework aimed at furthering the strength of the PHP technology and its thriving community, as well as collaboration with other software developers such as Microsoft. While PHP is rooted in the open source space, Zend hopes that working with Microsoft will boost PHP Web application deployments to the Windows platform.
"PHP and MySQL go hand and hand. PHP and MySQL are redefining how modern Web applications are being built and deployed," noted Gutmans.
LinuxInsider discussed with Gutmans how PHP is enabling businesses of all sizes to efficiently develop and deploy mission-critical PHP applications.
LinuxInsider: What are the major improvements to PHP?
Andi Gutmans: One of the biggest improvements we added in 2006 is Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Our goal is that it will deliver the desktop experience in the browser. The advantage of RIA is the richer user interface it produces. This provides a desktop-like feeling that includes drag and drop, sliders, and user interface changes without full page refreshes.
Another advantage is that RIA makes for a more responsive browsing environment with less visible interaction with the server. It also enhances asynchronous interaction with the server and leverages the deployment advantages of the browser.
LinuxInsider: What do you see as the most significant draw to PHP, and what role has Zend played in the growth of PHP?
Gutmans: There is a huge value in being able to just download and run it. PHP is open source. We developed the Zend Scripting engine for PHP.
LinuxInsider: What business factors led to the rapid adoption of PHP?
Gutmans: In 2005, we signed a strategic partnership with IBM to develop Zencore for IBM. This gave PHP a huge push with enterprise. We also signed a partnership with Oracle, which was the tipping point for our enterprise production.
Early in 2006, we had an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deal with IBM's System i, which used to be the AIS 400. This is a huge market. Java failed there, so IBM started working with us and PHP. On April 25, our relationship with IBM and MySQL solidified even more -- and will produce a huge benefit for users of these products, since PHP runs on all platforms.
LinuxInsider: In October 2006, Zend signed a partnership with Microsoft. How does PHP play out on the Windows platform?
Gutmans: Microsoft saw that PHP doesn't have to be their enemy. Approximately 75 percent of all professional PHP developers develop on Windows. A few deploy on Windows. So we have a significant investment to make PHP a first-class citizen on the Windows platform. Some of the development with Windows includes Windows enhancements to PHP code base, FastCGI implementation for Internet Information Services (IIS), stability, and performance testing lab for PHP/Windows. This is all an ongoing effort.
LinuxInsider: What encounters with Windows have you dealt with in developing PHP?
Gutmans: PHP didn't run well on Windows at first. It was not stable. We made adjustments to fix that. This never would have happened with Microsoft a few years ago.
LinuxInsider: What are some of the recent enhancements to PHP that fit well with Windows?
Gutmans: We leveraged Win32-specific file system access for best performance. We also succeeded in optimizing the use of Windows-specific functionality, including COM (component object model) and registry access. We enhanced the optimal use of Windows memory management functionality. In addition, we worked to make both 32-bit and 64-bit FastCGI available and tested its stability. Windows now provides all server variables needed for PHP. We also added capabilities to detect and deal with deadlocked PHP processes.
LinuxInsider: What role has collaboration with other developers played in the success of PHP?
Gutmans: Collaboration yields Windows/Linux performance parity for PHP. Now, we almost are on a par with Linux performance. This gives enterprise much more choice and is a win-win situation for both us and Microsoft to keep customers on Windows Server. We are seeing more Java users switching to PHP as well.
LinuxInsider: What do you see as the single biggest driving influence for Zend's PHP development?
Gutmans: We only focus on the Web. That's what makes us so good at what we do.
LinuxInsider: What about Zend Framework for PHP?
Gutmans: Zend Framework has five components: the MVC engine, Data, Internalization, Web Services and Core. The Web services component has a vendor-specific API (application programming interface) to make it easy to access. We are growing an ecosystem of partners around this. For the data component, we ported Java Luscerne to PHP. We succeeded in scalability and made it 100 percent compatible with Java. We also added PDF support.
IBM and Google are using the Zend Framework to build their newest 2.0 applications. The Zend Framework lets anyone build software without a separate license, so it is easy on corporate America. It is now in beta release and will be licensed by the end of May as a release candidate. It is already in very good shape. This has been a very successful project for us. Our goal is to make it extremely simple to use with choice and light weight.
LinuxInsider: What do you see happening with PHP in the short term?
Gutmans: PHP today is a main mover, and Zend continues to lead this space. Our goal is to continue to lead Web 2.0, building the ecosystem to interoperate. There are lots of interesting other choices for enterprise, so interoperability is critical.
In 2007, some developments to look out for are a new MySQL client library, the release of PHP 6, Unicode, and increased hybrid applications with PHP/Java, along with Zend Framework 1.0.